First in a five-part series examining the re-tooled Dallas Mavericks position by position.
Talk about out with the old and in with the new. It wasn't without trying to keep the status quo; the Mavericks thought they had Jason Kidd locked up with a three-year, $9 million deal once Deron Williams decided to stay with the Brooklyn Nets. But at the last minute Kidd decided he wanted to finish his career in the Big Apple and try to conquer the dysfunction that defines the New York Knicks. This actually might have been a blessing for the Mavs, who were fully prepared to send the declining 39-year-old back on the floor as the starting point guard for another season, if not more. Once Kidd made up his mind up to flee and Steve Nash, another former Mavs point guard, remarkably joined Kobe Bryant, the Mavs' front office set out to find the point guard of the future -- or at least the point guard for next season.
How it came together
The Mavs were talking to Ramon Sessions and a number of other players about taking over the point guard position. Darren Collison's name never surfaced until Dallas and the Indiana Pacers pulled off a surprising sign-and-trade July 11. Dallas sent free-agent backup center Ian Mahinmi to Indiana in exchange for the speedy, three-year point guard out of UCLA. This will be Collison's third team in four seasons as he enters the final year on his rookie contract. ... With a number of combo guards on the roster, including three who could see time at point guard -- Rodrigue Beaubois, Dominique Jones and rookie Jared Cunningham -- the Mavs waited a few more weeks before finally re-signing Delonte West, the closest thing other than Collison to being a true point. West signed with Dallas last season specifically to back up Kidd but quickly became the starting shooting guard primarily for defensive reasons alongside Kidd. With O.J. Mayo, Dahntay Jones and Vince Carter, plus any of the three aforementioned combo guards, filling up the shooting guard position, West would figure to be Collison's primary backup at the point. ... As for Beaubois, his fourth season is a huge one. It is the last on his original contract and he needs a breakthrough following a two-year slide from his famed rookie season when all signs pointed to him being a budding star. With Collison and West also in contract years, it might be difficult for Beaubois to carve out minutes once again, really, at either guard spot. ... Dominique Jones and the rookie Cunningham will have their work cut out to break into the rotation. A hamstring injury kept Cunningham out of last month's Las Vegas Summer League.
Kidd will go down as a legendary player in the NBA, and he was integral in the franchise winning its first championship in 2011. While still one of the great floor generals who could see plays develop before others knew what was going on, Kidd had his limitations in other areas. In today's NBA it's very difficult to live with a point guard incapable of driving. In the halfcourt offense, Kidd mostly became a spot-up shooter, and he struggled doing that last season. Collison drastically changes the dynamic. He's excited to play the pick-and-roll with Dirk Nowitzki and his quick penetrations will be a welcome addition to an offense that rarely got to the rim the last couple seasons and one that should offer more scoring options than last season. Defensively, Kidd also posed matchup issues for the Mavs. His inability to defend many of the league's point guards forced Dallas to switch, putting Kidd on the shooting guard and vice-versa, and even at times forcing Shawn Marion to guard point guards. It proved especially problematic last season with Vince Carter as the starting shooting guard when West was injured. At 6-foot, 160 pounds, Collison will be undersized against most of his peers, but his quickness and determination on the defensive end will be an asset. With O.J. Mayo at shooting guard and defensive-minded Dahntay Jones behind Mayo, the Mavs will no longer have to mix-and-match much defensively in the backcourt.
The Pacers decided Collison had run his course with them and opted to give a long-term contract instead to George Hill and trade for Texas-ex D.J. Augustin. Collison started most of last season but came off the bench in all 11 playoff games and played well. After a fantastic rookie season with the New Orleans Hornets when he impressed in taking over for the injured Chris Paul, Collison's scoring, assists and shooting percentage have fallen off. In fact his 2011-12 PER, the John Hollinger-created statistic that measures per-minute performance while adjusting for pace, was just 13.58, below the league average of 15.00. For comparison's sake, Deron Williams' PER last season was a sturdy 20.27. Ramon Sessions was 17.32 and Ricky Rubio was 14.70. The good news of sorts is that Collison's PER was better than Kidd's 12.82. Collison has never been a terrific assist man and has basically maintained a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. ... West is a solid backup, but he's dealt with injury issues for much of his eight-year career, including last season when he gruesomely broke the ring finger on his right hand reaching for a steal and missed 22 games. West can create his own shot by either getting to the rim or pulling up for a mid-range jumper, but he's averaged fewer than four assists a game in his career. ... For all the Mavs' desires to turn Beaubois into a point guard, the jury is still out and he could be running out of time. Since his foot injury, he has been reluctant to drive and his shooting percentages have plummeted. ... Dominique Jones, another combo guard, is working at point guard and played there during Summer League with mixed results. The former first-round pick wouldn't seem to have much of a shot at cracking the rotation.